Growing up, Sean Brock was part of a family that grew and harvested everything on its table. When his family wasn't cooking, it was preserving food for the future. Chef Brock has carried over this connection to ingredients at his Charleston, South Carolina, restaurants McCrady's and Husk, where he's known for his fresh, seasonal southern cooking.
Shortly after taking on the role of executive chef at McCrady's, Brock began developing a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island, near Charleston. He planted his own crops and became interested in growing heirloom vegetables and fruits indigenous to the area prior to the Civil War that were at risk of extinction. His efforts led him to become an advocate for seed preservation and an enthusiastic student of southern food history. He has also raised his own herd of pigs.
Chef Brock has gained national attention for his cooking, taking home the "Best Chef Southeast" James Beard award in 2010. He spends his free time at his home just outside of Charleston with his two dogs and his wife, Tonya, to whom he proposed while cooking at the James Beard house.
Q: You grew up in a family that grew and cooked their own food. How does that impact your own approach to cooking?
A: Most of my chores were centered around the garden or prepping vegetables. When you see the source at such a young age and know firsthand the work that is required to get the food on the table, you have a completely different respect for it. It shaped me into the chef that I am today. If you plant the tomato seed and care for the plant through its life cycle, you eat it a bit slower and with more appreciation.
Q: What has your experience been working mostly in southern kitchens? What draws you to that style of cooking?
A: I am in love with southern food and have been as long as I can remember. I love how each little region of the South has its own style of cooking and its own stories. If you study the food and stories of each region, you can have a much better understanding .of its individual cultures. In fact, you start to understand how cultures are formed.